For many people the day they become parents is the day they wave goodbye to having a car with any kind of performance. It is like they feel they must stop ever deriving pleasure from driving the minute they produce some offspring. This is both silly and not always needed, of course there are financial implications involved and faster cars do cost more money but it often seems more about the principle than the reality.
The first point to consider is that a fast car does not need to be driven fast all the time unless you are an idiot. When the kids are onboard a fast car can be driven just like a slow car…slowly. However, when the kids have been successfully delivered to whatever soft play party it is that weekend the parent behind the wheel can enjoy the benefits of a car designed to be driven. That is not to say anyone should be speeding, but a performance car can bring a great deal of pleasure within the law and parents that like cars have every right to experience it.
All that being said, where are these family road rockets and how do you get one? Well there is not an endless list of them but there are a few great examples on the used car market that can give you a lot of smiles per mile and still ferry the family perfectly well if not better than a soul crushing dad wagon. Below are a few examples of cars with Parent Power!
A car that is far too often associated with silly loud exhausts and baseball caps, the Impreza is a true motoring legend. In terms of performance the WRX version is really the only option, there are STi versions but these will be more expensive and harder to find. The real Gem for parents is the estate model called the wagon. It is a small estate but offers plenty of room for bikes and buggys as well as 5 doors. The flat 4 engine sounds great and is generally very reliable as is the car overall. Some of the interior materials are a bit tacky but the bucket seats and MOMO steering wheel certainly make you feel like you are in a fast car. Performance wise the Impreza will get to 60 mph in under 6 seconds and boasts between 215 and 225 bhp depending on exact model. You could pick up a clean 2002 model for around £3000 but be wary of modified cars, look for a standard one to be sure things are going to work properly. The 4WD system is so good it doesn’t need traction control, if you want to feel safe in the wet and in slippery conditions the Impreza is the car for you.
The Impreza offers space, amazing levels of grip which work just as well for safety as they do for performance driving. It also happens to have bags of power and provide huge amounts of acceleration and fun for those solo spirited drives; let it loose on some country roads and the Impreza will make you grin from ear to ear.
SEAT Leon Cupra R
For some people an estate is too big so they look towards the faithful hatchback market. Most family hatchbacks are just that…suitable for families. They leave very little room for fun, though it is worth mentioning the Ford Focus ST170 as a nippy option. However, for real performance you really can’t beat the Leon Cupra R. This 5 door family friendly car will not only ferry your tribe around it will also surprise anyone who thinks it’s a slouch. The 2002-2005 version comes in 2 guises both 1.8 petrol engines. The only difference is one version has 221 bhp and the other 210, 0-60 times are 6.7 seconds and 7 seconds respectively and both will do around 150 mph. The Curpa R is another turbo charged car just like the Impreza but lacks the 4WD stability.
SEATs are largely considered reliable, and the Cupra R handles well too. The beauty of it is that being a hatchback it’s easy to park and get around town, it fits on the family driveway and unless driven hard, feels like any other car. Having 5 doors makes it perfect for getting kids into child seats and the boot is big enough for the usual paraphernalia that comes with kids. But, as with the Subaru, it will come alive when you want it too. The SEAT does have the wonderful advantage of looking very normal which makes leaving a heavily modified yob mobile at the lights very amusing indeed. As with the Subaru around £3000-4000 will get you a clean version on around 80,000 miles, push that budget to £5000 and you will find much lower mileage cars. The Leon is largely happy to run well over 100,000 miles so it makes for a very cheap, flexible and fast family car.
Honda Accord Type R
Nothing says Dad quite like a big H on the bonnet of your car. For years Honda have been synonymous with reliability, safety and sadly boredom. This, however, is not the perception among those in the know. People who love cars, especially Japanese cars know Honda have been responsible for making road rockets for years as well as stunningly good family cars. Most people are aware of the Civic type R in its newer guise but the Type R badge has been around for quite a long time and it has always meant the same thing…speed.
The Accord is not an estate, nor is it a hatchback, it is a good old fashioned saloon and as such is perfect for ferrying around 4 or 5 people in comfort. For families with older kids it makes a lot of sense as the boot no longer needs to hold buggies and bikes, however it is more than big enough to do so if needed.
Once again you are looking at 0-60 times of 7 seconds with a 2.2 litre 4 cylinder petrol engine. Top speed is 140 mph and you can pick a decent one up for around £3000-4000. The problem is finding one, these cars are certainly sought after by people in the know. The smooth ride, ample space and interior toys make the Type R the perfect family cruiser for long runs, motorway commuting and the occasional spirited drive. They do have a big spoiler which can be taken off making the Accord a very subtle road rocket. Be careful when buying though, import versions prefer to be run on 98 RON petrol and insurance will be higher.
There are a few other “dad rockets” out there too like the ageing Volvo T-5’s and their derivative models. Never forget the Golf GTi for those looking at smaller cars though some versions really aren’t very quick at all. Larger engine German cars like BMW 330s and the like can be incredibly expensive to run and are often not super quick. They offer plenty of luxury and motorway power, and certainly an option for those who want rear wheel drive but running costs can be so high they become useless for a family to run and will leave the kids and parents cold and hungry with no money left to buy food or pay bills.
As always, performance cars come with risks and not just in terms of buying a lemon. Driving safely and properly with family members on board and on your own is still important. Being safe on the road is more important for people in faster cars, they have a responsibility to keep themselves and those around them alive and well. Performance cars are wonderful and make many people very happy but when they are missed used they ruin it for everyone. There are a few little things you can do to make sure everyone is extra safe like installing a fire extinguisher from a company like www.f-e-v.co.uk, they can prove very useful in the event of even a small electrical fire and give you time to get everyone out. Make sure the boot is stocked with high viz gear, warning triangles and warm clothing as well as a few other essentials http://www.motors.co.uk/news/guides/what-to-keep-in-your-car-boot
You really can have your cake and eat it if you are someone who loves cars and driving and also has a family, but only if you are aware of the risks and dangers. Anyone who drives irresponsibly in any car is an idiot, anyone who does it with kids in the car is just plan reckless and should not be allowed to drive. However, those of you who are sensible should feel free to continue to enjoy performance cars even if you do have a family.